Mike Rosen is a popular radio talk show host in Denver. In a recent column for the Rocky Mountain News he made an error that one sees in the press with increasing frequency: that entering the country illegally is not a crime.
[18-year old Ron] Tapia was born in Mexico and entered the country illegally with his mother and sister. That makes him an illegal immigrant. As a citizen of another country, that also makes him an alien. He’s not a criminal in the sense of one who commits a violent crime. Entering our country illegally is a civil offense, not a criminal one.
True, he’s not a violent criminal, but he has violated a law that carries criminal, not just civil, sanctions:
Section 1325 [of Title 8, Chapter 12, Subchapter II, Part VIII]. [U.S. Code as of: 01/06/03]
Improper entry by alien
(a) Improper time or place; avoidance of examination or inspection;
misrepresentation and concealment of facts
Any alien who (1) enters or attempts to enter the United States
at any time or place other than as designated by immigration
officers, or (2) eludes examination or inspection by immigration
officers, or (3) attempts to enter or obtains entry to the United
States by a willfully false or misleading representation or the
willful concealment of a material fact, shall, for the first
commission of any such offense, be fined under title 18 or
imprisoned not more than 6 months, or both, and, for a subsequent
commission of any such offense, be fined under title 18, or
imprisoned not more than 2 years, or both.
(b) Improper time or place; civil penalties
Any alien who is apprehended while entering (or attempting to
enter) the United States at a time or place other than as
designated by immigration officers shall be subject to a civil
penalty of -
(1) at least $50 and not more than $250 for each such entry (or
attempted entry); or
(2) twice the amount specified in paragraph (1) in the case of
an alien who has been previously subject to a civil penalty under
Civil penalties under this subsection are in addition to, and not
in lieu of, any criminal or other civil penalties that may be
This is not to say that young Ron has no defenses. If intent is required for culpability perhaps Ron and his sister were too young to be held responsible for violating this statute. That defense, however, would not work for his mother.
I have not researched this point thoroughly, and it is possible the above statute has been changed or amended., but I don’t think so. If it had, I doubt that Ron Brownstein would have written in the Los Angeles Times a few days ago that “[i]t is a crime to cross the border without authorization.”